ANAHEIM -- A.J. Griffin had to wait 938 days for this moment but he is once again a winning pitcher in the Major Leagues.
Griffin, after winning the fifth starter spot in Spring Training, made a triumphant entry into the Rangers rotation by holding the Angels to three runs in six innings in a 7-3 victory on Friday night at Angel Stadium.
"It's awesome," Griffin said. "I worked hard to get back and compete as the highest level. To do it with a team like this and this bunch of guys, it's pretty fantastic. It was a great team win."
Griffin was making his first Major League starter since Sept 24, 2013 -- also against the Angels in Anaheim -- and his last victory was on Sept. 12 that season against the Twins while he was still with the Athletics. He missed the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and other related shoulder ailments before making his long-awaited return on Friday night.
"An outstanding performance by A.J.," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "It was nice to put some runs on the board early so he could settle in and pitch his game."
Griffin did not overpower anybody. His fastball was 89-90 miles per hour and his only strikeout came on a slow curve that Albert Pujols chased outside the strike zone. But he threw strikes with four pitches and maintained his poise in tough situations.
He threw 88 pitches and 57 were strikes. He also threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of 26 hitters faced. He allowed six hits and two walk, but the Angels were 1-for-8 against him with runners in scoring position.
"It's what we saw in Spring Training," Banister said. "The mound presence and the ability to throw strikes."
The Rangers staked him to a 3-0 lead in the first and Griffin kept his team out front despite some anxious moments. The second inning was the first sample of Griffin's fortitude.
Kole Calhoun led off with a single and went to third on a double by Andrelton Simmons, but Griffin held them to one run. He jammed Ji-Man Choi with an 87 mile-per-hour fastball and got him to pop out to second. Carlos Perez scored a run with a grounder to second but Griffin got out of the inning by getting Cliff Pennington on a grounder to first.
"I just trusted the guys behind me and threw strikes," Griffin said. "If you do that, good things happen."
The Angels, down 5-1, also had runners at first and second in the third inning when Griffin got Pujols on a fly to center. Calhoun singled home one run but Griffin got Simmons on a fly to center. Pennington had a one-out run-scoring triple in the fourth but Griffin kept him there as Yunel Escobar flied to shallow right-center and C.J. Cron popped to second.
Griffin then set down the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings before calling it a night.
"It has been a grind but to get out there and get an opportunity to compete has been fantastic," Griffin said. "I was just back out there, trying to compete, throw strikes and give us a chance to win the game."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.